Yesterday I ran my second 5K race. I’ve been running for two years but this is only the third race I’ve entered.
My first 5K was in 2010, only a few months after I had started running. I did pretty well, with a time of 29:30, but I didn’t run the whole way. I remember the excitement of the race quite well, and I also remember over-hydrating myself so much that by the time the gun went off all I could think of was finding a bathroom (which I did immediately after finishing).
I was not prepared for that first race. I could have been, but just finishing was my goal. I thought that no matter what the outcome was, I could always improve on the next race.
Last year, I ran my first (and so far only) 10K race. I thoroughly prepared for this race, and although my results were good, I was still over the time I actually wanted to finish in (end time: 1 hour, 6 minutes. I wanted to be under an hour). When I ran across that finish line, I was overwhelmed with joy. I felt strong and exhausted, and even though my time wasn’t what I wanted I knew I had accomplished something great for myself.
So yesterday, with two years of running experience, I set out to repeat the same 5K race I had run before. Oddly, the weather was almost the same as it was for the 10K, with a temperature in the 60s and a light rain. Cooler weather is great because it’s easier to run; the rain sucks because it makes the road slick, but I’ll take it over running in the heat any day.
The race was only about a mile from where we live, so we walked there (my wife joined me for the race). We got there about 30 minutes before the start and found some of our friends that were also running. What I always hate is the 10 minutes before the race start, where you’re waiting for gun to go off and get going; it’s such a tense and anxious time.
Once the race started, I immediately started working my way around the crowd. I always move to the left and just run until I find the spot in the race where I’m with people at my regular pace. I found them in the first quarter mile and stuck with them as other passed me or started walking. One thing I was unsure of was encouraging other runners; I wanted to say “great job!” or “keep going!” a few times to people I saw walking (especially towards the end of the race), but I was worried I might sound like a jerk, so I kept quiet.
This was also my first race without music of any kind. This was really great, because I could focus on my running and breathing, and it was a much more pleasant race because I wasn’t worried or distracted by what was on my MP3 player.
Even though I normally run negative splits on my normal runs (slower in the beginning, faster second half) I went out too fast on this race and ended up not having the energy I needed to be faster in the second half of the race. My legs were strained, my stomach was growling for something more than the single banana I had eaten earlier.
But no matter how I was feeling, I ran strong. I kept seeing people who had blazed past me earlier in the race stopping to walk. I saw people 10 years younger than me stopping to walk, even at the end of the race.
As I ran into the last quarter mile, I could hear the crowd that was waiting just over the small bridge (and the only hill in the race, if you could call it that), and it really gave me the inspiration to start running harder and faster and shave off a few seconds of my time.
I didn’t know my time until I saw the printout of the results posted by the finish line. My goal had initially been 25 minutes or under, then I had settled on 26 or under. Even though I didn’t make those goals, I still had a decent run. If I raced more, I know I could do better and get used to the race environment.
I know where I need to improve. I’m still trying to eat better, and cross-train better. There’s always the next race for improvement, right?
Do you run a lot of races? Do you want to start running?